DrWhite2 Q: I have asthma, and I recently gave birth to a healthy baby girl. What symptoms should I watch for in my infant daughter as signs that she may also develop asthma? 

Martha White, MD: Babies whose parents have asthma are at increased risk of developing asthma, so you’re wise to be on the lookout for signs of breathing problems in your baby.

Watch your baby closely if she develops signs of a cold, as the first wheezing episode is often, but not always, associated with a respiratory tract infection. Typical asthma symptoms would include cough, wheezing (a whistling sound while breathing out), and signs of shortness of breath, such as rapid, hard breathing or retracting (pulling in between the ribs or above the collar bone while breathing in).

The baby might also be fussy, but if she’s really struggling to breathe, she may not cry as much, as she’d need all her energy to breathe. Decreased feeding can also be seen with asthma, although it’s certainly not specific to the condition.

If your child has wheezing and shortness of breath without an upper respiratory tract infection, that may indicate an allergy. Most frequently, the culprits are dust mites, a furry pet or food allergens. If you notice any of these symptoms, and they don’t clear up with cleaning her nose, ask your pediatrician and/or allergist to evaluate her.

Martha White, MD, FACAAI, is a board-certified allergist at the Institute of Asthma and Allergy in Wheaton, Md., a member of Allergy & Asthma Network’s Board of Directors, and a fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

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